Cambodian Beef Lok Lak

Another Asian beef dish!  But one that is a firm family favourite in our house, even for Matilda who doesn’t like red meat (she will still have a fried egg, rice, salad and pour over the lime and black pepper sauce).

This is a family meal that can be thrown together at the last minute if you forgo the marinating time.  I tend to make the marinade in the morning, and then just before dinner I put on the rice, put together the stir fry sauce, lime and black pepper sauce and cut up the salad.  Stir frying the beef takes only a few minutes and so does frying some eggs in another pan.  We visited Cambodia last year and Levi ordered Lok Lak on a few occasions and it always came with a fried egg on top so now we also make it with fried eggs.

cambodian beef lok lak

500g beef, cut thinly for stir fry
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons oil

stir fry sauce

4 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoons cornflour
2 teaspoons sugar

lime and black pepper sauce

1/4  cup lime juice (1-2 limes)
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1-2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon of water

to serve

steamed jasmine rice
iceberg lettuce
sliced tomatoes
sliced cucumber
finely sliced spring onions
fried eggs

Marinate the beef with the oyster sauce, garlic, sugar and cracked pepper and put in the fridge for an hour or preferably overnight.

In a small bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the stir fry sauce and put aside.  In another bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the lime and black pepper sauce, adjusting to taste if needed.  Arrange sliced lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber on a platter.

Heat the oil in a large frypan or wok.  Add the beef to quickly sear and then add the stir fry sauce.  Cook for a few minutes or until the sauce thickens slightly.  Pour the sizzling beef and all the yummy sauce over the salad.  Scatter over some sliced spring onions and serve with steamed rice, fried eggs and the lime and black pepper sauce.

Posted in Family Dinner | 1 Comment

Vietnamese Beef

With a new school year commencing on Monday I’m inspired to share this brilliant recipe. I’ve been trying to get my head out of holiday mode and into making family friendly weekday meals and lunch box fillers.

This recipe is an ideal weekday family dinner as it can either go into the slow cooker to do its magic during the day, or it can be thrown together quite quickly in a pressure cooker for a last minute dinner.  I used the pressure cooker and once it was on I got the rice on and prepared all the toppings and dinner was ready in well under an hour.

Here is to a brilliant 2017 school year!

vietnamese beef (for the slow cooker or the pressure cooker)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1kg chuck steak, diced into 2-3cm pieces
1 red onion, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
6cm piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 lemongrass, pale end finely chopped
4 kaffir lime leaves, finely sliced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
a good pinch of sea salt flakes
freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons Chinese 5 spice
4 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1L beef stock
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar

to serve (suggestions)

steamed jasmine rice
bean sprouts
vietnamese mint
thai basil
thinly sliced red onion
sliced red chilli
crushed roasted peanuts
lemon or lime

Heat up a large pot and add the oil (I use the Newwave 5-in-1 Multicooker which allows me to brown the meat in the pot and then select either the pressure cooker or the slow cooker).  Add the meat in batches to brown all over and then remove the meat and place on a plate.

Saute the onion until soft and then add the garlic, ginger, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves to cook stirring for a minute.  Then add the tomato paste and cook for another couple of minutes.  Return the beef to the pot along with the rest of the ingredients and bring to a simmer.

Follow the cooking method for use in your slow cooker or pressure cooker.
Slow cooker – set for 6 hours.
Pressure cooker – set for 30 minutes

If you don’t have one of these then just put a lid on the pot and leave to simmer for 1 1/2 – 2 hours on the stove, or until the beef is tender.

Posted in Family Dinner | 2 Comments

Tilly’s Chilli Thermomix

Tilly's Chilli

I purchased a Thermomix  (TM) last year and have been putting it to good use many times a day.  Recently I have been adapting some of my favourite recipes to make in the TM as it makes mid-week meals easier.  My girls’ favourite meal is Tilly’s Chilli  and I’ve been cooking it up on a more regular basis now I’ve adapted it for the TM.

Thanks to Megan from Childrens Books Daily for her gentle encouragement to share a TM recipe!  For those folks who own a TM and looking for ideas, here are a few ways I put it to good use.

  • Green smoothies.  It is so on trend but I do feel really happy sending my kids off to school after a non-dairy smoothie full of seeds, oats, berries, bananas, carrot, ginger and kale.  Even the vegetable fearing Elliott will drink a glass. I use Alyce Alexandra’s guide to make a perfect smoothie.

Green Smoothies

  • Yoghurt. This is a new thing but I’m delighted to find I can make pot set yoghurt which we use on almost anything.
  • Stock paste.  Revolutionary.
  • Raspberry jam.  Seriously simple recipe.
  • Nut butter – any sort plus an occasional homemade nutella.
  • Porridge.  I know it is easily made the conventional way but I get in a routine during the colder months of putting the porridge on then going for a run or a shower and then my kids, usually Levi, will listen out for the TM and pour the finished porridge into the thermoserver where it stays perfectly warm ready for kids as they come down for breakfast.
  • Bread/pizza dough.  My favourite pizza dough is a recipe I make in the mixer and I use my eye to know how much liquid to add but most weeks I will just rely on the TM and ask one of my kids to make the dough that comes on the recipe chip. I also make up this recipe and use it to make either pizza scrolls, calzone or vegemite and cheese scrolls for lunch boxes.  Usually I’ll make the dough and pop it in the fridge overnight then the next morning I’ll use half the dough to make scrolls and then the next morning I’ll use up the other half.  As for everyday bread I get my kids to make this reliably good recipe for a Jumbo Bread Loaf.

Jumbo Loaf

We love making a spiced fruit loaf too which is great for afternoons on chilly days.

Spiced Fruit Loaf


  • Curry.  My favourite!  The TM makes cooking your own curry pastes a breeze and there are so many good recipes out there.  We all love curry and having jars of homemade paste in the fridge has often saved me when we are low on supplies.  I can make a pretty delicious and speedy curry out of a tin of cooked lentils, veggies, yoghurt or coconut cream and the homemade curry paste.  One of our favourite weekend meals is to make a big curry complete with saffron rice and naan bread (or ‘banaan bread’ as Elliott likes to call it, and has caught on in the family!) which is all made in the TM.  A weeknight favourite is a very simple Japanese Katsu Chicken Curry.Katsu Chicken Curry
  • I use it a lot to blitz up seeds and nuts to boost protein in baked goods and love to blitz oats to add to pancakes/pikelets to make them more substantial like this recipe from Quirky Cooking for Apple Oat Fritters.


  • Icy drinks and desserts.  I don’t make ice cream in my TM but I do blitz up fruit and ice for fast desserts or slushies like this yummy recipe for Coconut Vanilla Sorbet.

Coconut Vanilla Sorbet

  • Treats and foodie gifts.  Boy oh boy the TM came in very handy for things like fudge, rum balls, bliss balls and salted caramels to gift over the festive season.  I could put ingredients in and walk away and it would do the rest.


  • Custard.  I saved the best for last.  Any recipe for custard, custard bases for icecream, custard for Portuguese tarts.  The list could go on.  I just put in all the ingredients and cook until it hits 80 degrees and custard is done and not split!

I am a little obsessed with kitchen accoutrements and the TM is yet another for me to play with, although it isn’t the be all and end all. I’m still learning how to utilise my TM the best way but I am loving that my kids use it and enjoy using it which means we are still able to eat delicious whole food meals even when I’m super busy.

tilly’s chilli thermomix

1 onion, halved
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 carrot, cut into chunks
1 red capsicum, deseeded and quartered

4 seconds/Speed 5/MC on

Scrap down the side of bowl.

25g olive oil

4 minutes/100 temperature/Speed 2/MC off

1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
pinch of dried chilli
1 teaspoon salt
cracked black pepper

2 minutes/100 temperature/Speed 2/MC off

Scrap down sides of bowl.

800g tin of whole, peeled tomatoes

2 seconds/Speed 7/MC on

Place simmering basket on the top of bowl to weigh.

100g French puy lentils

Remove and rinse the lentils under running water in the basket then drain.  Tip them in the TM bowl.

Add the following beans to the simmering basket.

1 x 400g tin of black beans
1 x 400g tin of red kidney beans

Rinse the beans in the basket under running water and drain.  Tip them in the TM bowl.

45 minutes/100 temperature/counter-clockwise operation Gentle stir setting/MC off

Sit the simmering basket on top of the TM lid to minimise splatters!

And that is that!  I absolutely love how reliably delicious it is each time and cooking it in the TM means a whole lot less time chopping and stirring for me which is what I particularly want mid-week.

Posted in Family Dinner, Kids In The Kitchen, Thermomix, Vegetarian | 9 Comments

Beef Tataki


How lovely is that backyard!  We visited friends out at Samford last month on the very first chilly day of the season.  I’ve since got my slow cooker out of storage and put it to good use.  Last night was lamb shanks which was very popular with all the boys (my girls are not into eating lamb).


Speaking of backyards, how lucky are those giraffes at Taronga Zoo!

But back to cooking meat – I rarely ate meat growing up.  My sisters and I were called the ‘Lentil Girls’ by our neighbours.  This in turn has made me a cautious cook when it comes to cooking meat but I’m slowly gaining confidence and this recipe for Beef Tataki is almost fail proof as well as being incredibly delicious.

Beef Tataki

The beauty of this recipe is that all the cooking happens the day before you serve.  Just a quick sear and then finish it in the oven before leaving it to steep overnight in the soy sauce marinade.  Serve it thinly sliced (a sharp knife helps) with sliced spring onions, rice and then I’ll just have salad.  Sometimes ‘salad’ is sliced cucumber and if I’m feeling enthusiastic then an Asian Vegetable Salad.

Now I’ve got into the rhythm of kids, work, school etc I’m finding that I’m returning to the kitchen to cook for fun.  It has been a while since it has felt like anything other than another chore to do but lately I’ve been really looking forward to taking some time over the weekend to make a special family meal.  I’m also enjoying seeing the kids get into the kitchen more and more.  Both Tilly and Essie did a brilliant job last week baking cakes and biscuits to enter into the Brookfield Show.  Our kitchen looked like a disaster but they both earned themselves a third place ribbon and $2 prize money!

13th Birthday Cake

In other news, we have a teenager!  Levi turned 13 last month and he celebrated with friends, family, soccer, tacos, ice cream cake, soccer, a sleepover and more soccer.  We have more soccer balls in our backyard than plants.

Beef Tataki

beef tataki

(adapted from
80ml soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon dry sherry
2 teaspoons caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon light olive oil
750g piece of beef eye fillet, tied at 4cm intervals
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.  Season the beef well with salt and pepper. Heat a large frypan over medium/high heat and add the olive oil.  Sear the beef on all sides evenly until nicely browned for about 10 minutes and then pop on a baking tray and bake in oven for 15 minutes.  Then transfer to the cooling rack and leave the beef to cool.

In a bowl whisk together the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sherry, sugar and sesame oil.  Place the cooled beef into a large ziplock plastic bag and pour over the soy sauce mixture.  Seal the bag and place in fridge overnight.

When ready to serve, take the beef out of the bag and thinly slice and arrange on a platter.  Top with some thinly sliced spring onions and drizzle over some of the soy sauce mixture.  Put any extra of the sauce into a jug to serve alongside.  Serve with rice and a crunchy Asian salad.

Posted in Entertaining, Family Dinner | Leave a comment

Lentil and Spinach Soup

Lentil and Spinach Soup

With a big sigh of relief Term 1 is over and I’m sure I’m not the only parent out there who found it incredibly busy and exhausting.  I’ve just had a few hours of sitting up at hospital this afternoon with Elliott who had two decent gashes on his foot from a broken glass water bottle that fell out of the fridge.  There was the usual hospital waiting time between needles, xrays and stitches which gave me lots of time to contemplate the very busy but very good start to 2015.


Everyone has settled into the new school year and I’ve adapted to life working as a teacher aide and studying for my education degree.  Our chicks have grown into awkward teenagers and our puppy has grown into a dog that still acts like a puppy. I’m welcoming the rain, the slightly cooler days and Easter holidays to spend lots of time with Joel and the kids and more time to enjoy cooking as opposed to just whipping up meals in a frenzy.  Soups are always a good standby meal for cooler evenings and thankfully all of my kids love a soup especially if there is some buttery toast for dunking.


This lentil soup is very good and very hearty.  It is a Bill Granger recipe with the addition of a few good handfuls of spinach at the very end which quickly wilts down.   Grate over some parmesan just before serving or even stir through a spoonful of pesto.

Lentil and Spinach Soup

 lentil and spinach soup

(adapted from a Bill Granger recipe)

50g butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large red onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
1 leek, finely sliced white part only
1 celery stick, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
pinch of dried chilli
1 teaspoon dried oregano
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 litre of chicken stock
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup Australian puy lentils
2 cups of spinach roughly chopped
1 teaspoon of salt
freshly ground black pepper

In a large pot melt the butter and add the oil.  Saute the onions, carrots, leek and celery for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and dried herbs and cook for a further 5 minutes stirring. Add the tomatoes, stock, bay leaves and lentils then bring the soup to the boil.  Turn down the heat to a simmer and cook, still occasionally, for 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender.

Add the spinach and stir until wilted.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve with Parmesan and lots of toast.

Posted in Family Dinner, Soup | 3 Comments

White Chocolate, Pistachio and Cranberry Slice

Pistachio, Cranberry and White Chocolate Slice

I hadn’t quite envisaged how busy life would be moving back to Australia as well as studying and Joel travelling each week for work but we are on our way to feeling settled.  There is still clutter to be sorted, furniture to buy, garden to be tended to but I plan never to move again so there really is no rush.  It is just so good to be back in Australia and even better to be here at this time of year with the neighbourhood full of Poincianas, Frangipanis and Christmas lights.  I feel a little heavy hearted when I see the snow reports in Colorado and wish I could just duck back for a day of skiing but Christmas to me is the humidity of a Brisbane summer with kids swimming, eating endless mangos and Joel playing all his Christmas records.  It is good to be back home.


Well this boy has taken up a great deal of my energy.  This is our puppy called Sunday which we had promised the kids on our return back to Australia.  Joel was really hoping we would call him Willy Nelson or Jimmy Little but Sunday won the day and I hope he grows up to be one of those lazy labradors who just sleeps all day on the front doorstep.  He is a beautiful dog who has a thing for stealing whole loaves of bread from the kitchen bench – we are working on that so he can graduate from dog obedience school.  Besides the bread stealing, we are all pretty much in love with this happy chappy.

The Great Barrier ReefThe Whitsundays, Queensland, Australia!!!

We have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to get up to Cairns to spend time with Joel’s parents over the September school holidays and also to go Hamilton Island earlier this term to tag along on Joel’s work offsite.  Nothing quite like getting out on the Great Barrier Reef, sailing the Whitsundays and spending time on the Atherton Tablelands to make one appreciate this beautiful state we live in.

Hamilton Island

The kids particularly loved getting up to the Grandparents farm at Millaa Millaa and paddling down the river, swimming in the nearby lakes, spotting the resident platypus and learning to drive the quad bike and off roader.

Milla Milla

Here is a photo of Levi having his first lesson in the off roader.

Driving lesson

And here is Tilly herding cattle on the quad bike.  She did brilliantly.

Rounding up the cowsMilla Milla

One of the best things for me moving back to Australia is the food.  Shopping is easy and familiar and I have enjoyed getting back into the rhythm of the Australian seasonal fruit and veg and cooking family meals, treats for lunch boxes and preparing for the Christmas feasting.  I have the fridge stocked with Christmas puddings, Christmas cake and jars of Pear and Ginger Fruit Mince.  This White Chocolate, Pistachio and Cranberry Slice is quite festive with the cranberries and can easily be sliced and stored in the freezer to pull out if you have to take a plate to a shindig.  Although once made it is really, really hard to resist – speaking from experience here.

This slice can easily be gluten free by using gluten free biscuits.  I tend to either top the slice with some lemon icing or just drizzle over melted white chocolate but I always finish with a scattering of chopped pistachios as it looks quite pretty.  Perfect little slice to take to a Christmas party.

Pistachio, Cranberry and White Chocolate Slice

white chocolate, pistachio and cranberry slice

200g milk arrowroot biscuits (any sweet biscuit will do and gluten free biscuits can be used for a gluten free version)
300g white chocolate, roughly chopped
60g unsalted butter
1 cup of sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup roasted, unsalted pistachios, roughly chopped

lemon icing

1 3/4 cups of icing sugar
20 g unsalted butter, melted
lemon juice
extra pistachios, roughly chopped

Line a 20cm x 30cm slice tin with baking paper.  Process half the biscuits in a food processor to make crumbs then tip into a large bowl.  Process the other half of the biscuits in the food processor to make very rough crumbs and tip into the large bowl.  This way you have a variation in the crumbs, alternatively you could place all the biscuits into a large ziplock bag and bash them with a rolling pin until you get a nice mix of fine crumbs and large crumbs.  Add the chopped pistachios, cranberries and 100g of roughly chopped white chocolate and mix together.

In a saucepan, melt the butter with the condensed milk.  Take the saucepan off the heat then add 200g chopped white chocolate and stir until the chocolate melts.  Pour this into the biscuit mix and stir to combine.  Pour into the prepared baking tin and press the mixture down firmly and evenly with a spatula.  Put the tin into the fridge for a couple of hours or until the slice has set firm.

Finish with the lemon icing or drizzle with extra melted white chocolate and scatter over extra chopped pistachios.  For the lemon icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and stir in the melted butter and enough lemon juice to make a spreadable consistency.  Keep this slice stored in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.

Posted in Afternoon Tea, Baking, Christmas, Slice | 13 Comments

A Trip To The East Coast & Blueberry Crisp

Blueberry Crisp

I’m still a little unclear of the difference between a fruit crumble and a crisp.  In all honesty, I had only heard of a crisp since living in America and mostly in the form of a blueberry crisp which I imagined was a thin layer of blueberries topped with lots of crumble mix baked until golden.  The perfect balance of fruit and crumble because I love lots of crumble.  Well it wasn’t until this trip over to the east coast that I had my first Blueberry Crisp at Cape Cod and it wasn’t all I had hoped so I made one as soon as I got home to match my expectations.  Oh yum, yum, yum.  Topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream this is a perfect dessert that requires very little ingredients and very little kitchen utensils.

Blueberry Crisp

My kitchen has been pared down to a bowl, a pot, a frypan and a baking tray which my neighbour has lent me plus a wooden spoon, measuring cup, rolling pin, tongs, small chopping board and a steak knife.  I bought a couple of foil trays as well. We went on a wonderful holiday and returned back to Colorado on a flight that was very delayed due to storms which had us land at 2am.  Then the next day, on very little sleep, we focused on packing and deciding what we  need to keep for our last few weeks in the USA plus what we will need when we arrive back in Australia for the last of winter while we wait for the shipping container to arrive.

Greenwich Village

Now we are living very simply with air matresses for beds, a couple of side tables for eating off and a sofa that, once again, our lovely neighbour has lent us.  So I’m a little restricted in what I can make but so far we have been just fine and it is an eye opener to see I actually don’t need most of the stuff I’ve accumulated over the years.  We have had poached chicken in a coconut broth with a crunchy Asian salad, spicy pinto beans and tortillas, pizza, fennel and chilli pasta with pangritata and last night I roasted a beef tri-tip (is tri-tip called something else in Australia? I’ve only seen it here in the USA)  With the foil trays it is easy to throw in some blueberries and top with the crumble mix so we will have to make the most of the blueberries in season and make this a few more times as I have never seen such cheap blueberries anywhere before.

Alice in Wonderland, Central Park

It has taken me quite a few days to recover from the hectic couple of days of packing and moving but we are now focused on making the most of our time here.  The kids have a few more weeks left of swim club and the girls and I are having horse riding classes and getting more familiar with the basic care that horses need.  Joel’s parents have promised to get Tilly a horse to keep on their farm up at Millaa Millaa in Far North Queensland, so I want the girls to learn as much as they can even though they won’t be able to see the horse too often but hopefully regularly enough.  Levi is just wanting to get on the quad bike at their farm again and Elliott, no doubt, will be keen to see all the heavy machinery that his Grandad sells.  He really wants to ride the quad bike by himself but that just isn’t going to happen for quite a few more years.

Greenwich Village, New York Cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery

Our trip over to east coast started with a few days in New York and it was hot and humid.  I haven’t felt humidity for so long so it was a bit of a shock and the city felt so different from our last trip when it was snowing and just a couple of weeks out from Christmas.  But we loved it!  Central Park was so lush and green and we made plenty of time to explore it.  We took the kids to Greenwich Village which we love and had cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery and took their photo outside the house that was used as the exterior shots of the Huxtable house in The Cosby Show.  We have been watching one episode of The Cosby Show a week on Monday nights for the last year which is such a hit with the kids so it was fun to go and see the house.  We also stopped in at the Google office in Chelsea for lunch and it was brilliant.  There can’t be too many workplaces that have a big space dedicated to playing Lego or scooters parked around the building so Googlers can fast track their way around the office.  Below is the incredible view from the Google balcony.

View from the Google office

Our time in New York was so short and I didn’t get to go and see everything I wanted but we did go to Co. for pizzas on our last night.  A storm had just broken out and the restaurant was pumping but there was one round table for 6 right near the window that we were taken to and we were looked after so well. Our waitress noted Joel’s Colorado Buffs T-shirt and it turns out she too is from Boulder and her parents live quite close to us.  The pizza bases weren’t my all time favourite but the toppings were incredible and some of the combinations were inspiring so I’m excited to try and replicate them.

American Museum of Natural History

We went to The Guggenheim and the American Museum of Natural History which was fantastic.  The kids had just watched Night at the Museum a few days earlier so it was fun to spot some of the exhibits at the AMNH that featured in the film but that aside, there was just so much to see at the museum.  Incredible exhibits and I’m not even sure we saw half of what was on display.

American Museum of Natural History

Our next stop was Cape Cod and we stayed in the sweetest little town, Chatham.  We were quick to get ourselves some fresh lobster rolls and fish and chips and a massive bottle of Cape Cod Beer and head to the beach.  It had been a very long time since we had been to the beach and it was such a breath of fresh air after New York.  The beaches are so different to Australia but so pretty with the long wavy grass, the distinctive Cape Cod houses and all the calm inlets.  It didn’t take long until a fog rolled in and we couldn’t see out to the ocean but the kids had a good, long swim while we sat back and enjoyed the odd sip of beer with a few passerbys stopping to inquire what style Cape Cod beer we had chosen.

Lobster rolls and beer at Cape CodWatching the fog roll in at Cape Cod

Hurricane Arthur was threatening off the coastline and there had been talk that the 4th of July parade in Chatham might be cancelled but it wasn’t, however the fireworks were postponed. The weather held off for the parade and we joined the crowds to line the main street in Chatham to watch and catch some of the lollies and ice-blocks (candy and popsicles!) that were being thrown at the spectators.  We were bombarded with red, white and blue and all-American patriotism and we appreciated seeing America celebrate its independence.

4th of July Parade, Chatham 4th of July Parade, Chatham 4th of July Parade, Chatham

One of our neighbour’s friends who is from New York was quite excited to give us recommendations for places to eat at Cape Cod.  She said that we could not go to Cape Cod and not try both fried clams and raw clams.  So she sent us to Moby Dick’s at nearby Wellfleet where we lined up for a good half an hour to have a clam bake, fried clams and raw clams.  The place was packed but by the time we had finished and ready to go the crowds had diminished.  I am not an oyster lover so I didn’t know how I would go with raw clams but I found them far more enjoyable.  I preferred them over the steamed clams just because the steamed clams were quite sandy.  Normally I love steamed clams but I haven’t had sand left in the clams before so other than that negative everything else was fantastic.  The fried clams were a hit with the kids and so was the lobster.  Friends of ours whom we met up with in Massachusetts said they can get lobsters for as little as $6 a pound but you can still get cheaper in Maine!  The clam bake was under $30, I can’t remember exactly, but Joel and I were both amazed at how cheap all the seafood was.  We were in seafood heaven.

Moby Dicks, WellfleetMoby Dick's, WellfleetMarion's Pie Shop, Chatham

We spent a day in Boston and our first stop was to have a ride on the swan boats.  Tilly had read The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White for school back in California and was really keen to go and see the swan boats.  There was quite a long line but it moved quickly and we were kept entertained chatting to a couple from upstate New York whose daughter just hopped on a plane the previous day to go to Australia for a visit.  The weather was so much more pleasant than New York and we just loved Boston.  So much cleaner and it was so beautiful.  Joel noted there was a Google office in Cambridge, right next to MIT where he would love to do further study and so we stopped by to visit the museum at MIT and went for a walk through Harvard.  I did not spend near enough time in Boston and want to go back.

The Swan Boats, BostonThe Swan Boats, BostonSolar car outside MITHarvardHarvard

Friends of ours from Sydney have been living in Massachusetts for many years and said that we were visiting for the only 2 good months in the year as the snow through winter is so deep and the weather just so unrelentatingly cold.  The word is that in summer lots of ice cream shops pop up and we drove past quite a few.  Our friend Alison took us to one close by called Cherry Farm Creamery which is one of the only ones open all year round so you can traipse through the snow and eat some refreshingly cold ice cream!  But if we were to go back it has been recommended that we go to White Farms Homemade Ice Cream in Ipswich so there is another reason to go back to beautiful Massachusetts.

Cherry Farm CreameryCherry Farm CreameryMassachusetts

We really fell in love with Massachusetts with the beaches, the seafood, the ice cream, the beautiful green countryside, the history and it was so good to catch up with Aussie friends.  We wanted to scrap our plans for Vermont and just stay put but I’m glad we headed to Vermont as it was equally as stunning.  We stayed on a farm, Shearer Hill Farm Bed and Breakfast, where they have a sugaring house for maple syrup and tap about 600 trees each season.  I had never put too much thought about the process of maple syrup and it was fascinating to learn and it was hard to envisage the place covered in snow.  Our hosts, Patti and Bill, told us that the snow sometimes reaches up to the window sill so they open the window and let their grandkids sled out the window and down the hill!   Levi is super keen to come back and help with the sugaring season but it is a long way from Australia.

VermontShearer Hill Farm, VermontBaked ApplesShearer Hill Farm, VermontSugarhouse, Vermont

Patti and Bill were so lovely and made us feel right at home.  Some of their lovely teenage grandkids were there and they took our kids off to go and feed the cows.  Breakfast was baked apples with ice cream and we spent our days mostly swimming at a nearby lake.  Joel pulled out a couple of air mattresses from the car and pumped them up so the kids had rafts to take out on the water.  So between the swimming, eating burgers and ice creams and hanging out with the animals, the kids declared Vermont the best part of our holiday.  In an odd way this made Joel and I happy at our decision to return to Australia as the whole area felt so similar to the Atherton Tablelands where Joel’s parents’ farm is. The lush green hills and the freshwater lakes.  Of course it never snows at Millaa Millaa but there is still a similarity between the tablelands and Vermont in the summer so we can assure kids they will have plenty more holidays similar to our time in Vermont.

Swimming, VermontVermont

Well we crammed in a lot and we hope to have a few more adventures before we fly home. I was a blubbering, crying mess at the thought of moving to America.  Not only the thought of leaving so much behind but I was really worried about sending my kids to school in America.  I wish I could have had a little peak into the future back then – although I wouldn’t tell myself about the very first school the kids went to in Cupertino where Tilly broke her arm on her second day and the teacher said she was fine and wouldn’t let her go to the school nurse. No that bit was not nice but the school in Los Altos and in Boulder have been brilliant and everywhere we have travelled to has been so fun and most of all we have loved the skiing.  When we were all competent enough to ski together as a family it was brilliant.  We mostly stuck to blue runs when Essie and Elliott were with us but they tackled a few black runs and those are happy memories.  I’m glad I didn’t let my fears and worries stop us from moving here but I’m still unbelievably excited to return home as I really am just a homebody.

Wading in streams, VermontVermont

blueberry crisp

3 cups blueberries
1 tablespoon cornflour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup plain flour
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup brown sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chopped

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F).  Lightly grease a baking dish and scatter the blueberries onto the base.  Sprinkle over the cornflour, 1 tablespoon of sugar and lemon juice and toss gently together.

In a bowl combine the flour, oats, brown sugar and salt and rub through the chopped butter with your fingertips until the mixture is crumbly.  Scatter this mix over the top of the blueberries and bake for 10 – 15 minutes until the crumble mix is golden.  Serve hot with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

It is worthwhile doubling or tripling the crumble mix as it can keep in ziplock bags in the freezer for a last minute dessert.

Posted in Dessert | 14 Comments

Fennel, Chilli and Parmesan Grissini

Fennel, Chilli and Parmesan Grissini

This last month has been such a whirl of activity and decision making.  The project that Joel was on at work closed down which left us with a decision to make – he could find a new team here in Boulder or back in California.  We decided instead to find a way to get home and Joel will be transferring to Australia.  So the house is packed up and we are all ready to move back home to our very much missed  and very much loved Australia!

Hiking up into the foothills for 2nd grade picnic

The temptation to stay on in Boulder was great.  This has been the most incredible place I have ever lived and I feel I could make it my home.  There is the incredible ski resorts here which so many people come here for but there is so much more to this place that you don’t experience in the resorts.  We have been so fortunate to have had this opportunity to live right here in Boulder, right at the foothills with incredible hikes, brilliant schools and so many affordable activities and classes for kids to do.  On the last day of school I joined Essie’s class for a hike and a picnic.  It was such a simple, lovely idea which was so easy to do as the school backs onto the foothills.  So the two second grade classes hiked 4 miles which involved stopping for a picnic and wading through a creek.  There are signs around warning about mountain lions and bears but they are so rare that no one worries about them.  It was such an idealic activity that I’m sure Essie will treasure forever and sums up what I love about living in Boulder.  The school takes advantage of their incredible backyard and incorporate the mountains into so much of the cirriculum and kids are encouraged to be in nature and climbing trees and playing in the school playground even if it is snowing. The relaxed approach to kids just enjoying the outdoors has been so refreshing. But we decided our move here was to have an adventure and we have certainly had that and we are looking forward to returning to Australia and being settled.

Essie with flowers for the dinner tableHanging out with Tiger, the neighbours catThe school playground Climbing trees at school

Our focus now is to enjoy as much of the summer here. Boulder has just bloomed and the grass and gardens are just growing at lightning speed.  Our garden is so different now from the snow heavy garden back in May.  Our apple tree is covered in teeny tiny apples and there is plenty of shady corners for the kids to hang out with the neighbour’s cat Tiger.  We have been cooking so much and most days we have been baking fresh bread of some sort for lunch – tortillas, pita bread, bagels, white loaves, wholewheat loaves, breadrolls, focaccia and grissini.  On the weekend we had a preliminary birthday feast for Essie’s 8th birthday.  Her birthday is not for another week but we will be away as we are leaving for a holiday to the east coast tomorrow.  So the dinner request was Fish Croquettes with Dill Mayonnaise (this was just suppose to be the entree but after they were demolished there was no room for the mains)and dessert was a homemade Blackberry Chip Ice Cream Pie. The ice cream was so good!  It was a recipe from the Bi-Rite cookbook called “Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones” which is brilliant.  I added roughly chopped chocolate to the ice cream for the last bit of churning for some texture. Bi-Rite has two cookbooks out and they are my most favourite souvenirs from San Francisco and bring back happy memories of eating their yummy ice cream in Mission Delores Park.

Blackberry Chip Ice Cream PieFish Croquettes with Dill MayonnaiseMy first batch of homemade bagels

As with every school holiday I try to get the kids into the kitchen to cook some meals.  Levi cooked one complete meal without any assistance whatsoever – grilled steaks, grilled corn, mashed potato and coleslaw.  He even made the coleslaw dressing by himself.  Essie has made the Watermelon and Mint Granita with Lime Syrup from Kate Bracks’ dessert book twice which we all love.  But now that our kitchen is packed up the cooking will slow down considerably for a while.  We will have to be creative with the limited cooking utensils we have since packing up and enjoy eating out a little more.

Watermelon and Mint Granita

On the weekend we headed up north to the Greeley Stampede for the Kids Rodeo.  Joel had convinced Elliott to sign up for the Mutton Bustin’ (putting 5 and 6 year olds on the back of a sheep where they hold on for dear life as the sheep bolts across the arena).  I did not think Elliott would do it as I was sure he would be intimidated at the sight of all the other kids falling off the running sheep.  But it made him even more excited and he couldn’t wait until his turn. He had a vest and a helmet to wear and once the sheep bolted out the gate Elliott lasted only 2 seconds before falling off.  He was disappointed at his short run and really wanted another go.  It seems that Elliott is a little bit of a brave cowboy.

Mutton Bustin' at Greeley StampedeGreeley StampedeGreeley Stampede

I shared a photo of some grissini on instagram a few weeks ago and promised to share the recipe.  It is an easy recipe to make although you do need to allow time for the yeasted dough to rise.  The kids helped make the recipe and loved rolling out the dough into snakes.  Grissini is great to pop into lunchboxes with a small container of hommus for dipping or just to have on its own.  With the spices and heat from the chilli these are really tasty just as they are but would be brilliant on a antipasto platter as an appetiser.

fennel, chilli and parmesan grissini

(adapted from Annie Rigg’s book ‘Gifts from the Kitchen’)

2 3/4 cups bread flour
3 teaspoons dry yeast
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
1/4 teaspoon crushed chili flakes
3/4 cup – 1 cup milk, warmed
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, finely grated

In a large mixing bowl place the flour, yeast, salt, fennel and chilli.  Mix together and then make a well in the centre.  Add the warmed milk, olive oil and Parmesan and mix then knead for about 5 minutes or until the dough is smooth.

Cover the bowl and leave to rise for about one hour or until doubled in size.  Then turn the dough 0ut and knead for another minute before rolling out into a large rectangle about 5mm thick.  Cut stripes of dough that are about 1 cm wide and gently roll these to create rounded grissini sticks.  Place these on a lined baking tray.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F).  Leave the grissini to rest for 10 minutes and then bake for 10 – 12 minutes or until golden.

Posted in Baking, Colorado | 13 Comments

Custer State Park and Mt Rushmore

Custer State Park

Well we are cramming in a bit of travel this Summer.  It was Joel’s birthday on Saturday and he really wanted to go and see Mt Rushmore so we planned a very last minute road trip up through Wyoming and into South Dakota.  Very little research was done into where we would camp but we hit the jackpot with Custer State Park.  We just wanted a place to pitch a tent with a picnic table and fire-pit and we got so much more. It was rolling green hills, lakes, streams and wildlife galore.  Proghorn antelope, white-tail deer, elk, wild turkeys, cottontail rabbits and most impressive wild roaming bison.  Most of the bison sightings were from a distance, dotted on the rolling hills, but at one point we turned a corner on the winding road to find a bison walking straight towards us.  We stopped the car and watched the huge animal walk past – it was a moment I don’t think any of us will forget.

BisonBisonCuster State Park Custer State Park
What we weren’t so prepared for was the drop in temperature.  It was well below 10 degrees C for the entire time and it rained through the night with a little drizzle throughout the day.  We were wishing we had booked one of the many cabins which looked like they might be warmer than our tent.  The mountains were covered in fog but the drive along Wildlife Loop was clear and we drove very slowly scanning for animals just like a safari.  Mid-morning we stopped at one of the picnic areas near a stream for birthday cake that I had carefully stored in the bottom of the esky.

Custer State Park Custer State Park Custer State Park Custer State Park

I could spend all Summer driving from park to park through America and camping.  The National Parks have clean facilities and incredible activities as well as having some of the most breathtaking landscapes.  There are plenty of informative talks and guided nature walks plus the Junior Ranger programs are free and the kids get so much out of them.  We were given a sheet of paper at Custer State Park from our friendly Campground Hosts listing all the free activities that were on during our stay which included movies about the bison in the park, an introduction to canoeing and a ‘Hook ’em and Eat ’em’ fishing activity.  We could have made a week of it!  There were also activities that cost money such as horse riding, off-road bison safari jeep tours and wagon rides.  We spent a fair amount of time at the horse stables befriending all the gentle horses.

Custer State Park Custer State Park

In all the parks we have stayed at there have been great camp stores.  They have all been housed in a log buildings and inside they are clean, well stocked and reasonably priced.  I was so grateful yesterday morning to drop into the camp store and get a good hot coffee and I had a very friendly lady help me as she must have spotted me staring blankly at the coffee pots!

Custer State Park Mt Rushmore
When we arrived at Mt Rushmore our hearts sank as the whole place was covered in thick fog.  We went on one of the trails and went and heard a ranger talk in the sculpture studio and hoped the fog would have cleared but it didn’t.  So we went back to the car and made ourselves a picnic lunch of sandwiches before piling back into the car.  We drove towards the exit and noted that the fog had cleared a little so we drove right back in and parked again to try our luck for the third time.  As we walked up through the entrance the presidential faces came into view and the crowd started cheering and clapping!  We had a clear view for about 15 minutes until the fog settled back in again so we were very happy and relieved we hadn’t left.  It was worth the drive for sure.  We drove home via Nebraska and across to Wyoming and back into Colorado.  So over the last week we have driven through 6 states and I think the kids will be happy to have a break from the car for awhile.

Mt Rushmore
Mt RushmoreMt Rushmore Hot Springs

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The Grand Canyon

Bright Angel Point

I have had a few people tell me about their slightly underwhelming experience of the Grand Canyon and how crazy busy it is with tourists.  It made me a little nervous that I was going to be driving the 11 hour trip from Boulder and then hit arid desert and see a great hole in the ground and then hang around a dusty campsite for 2 days with bored kids surrounded by tourists.  Thankfully, our experience was nothing like that at all and the Grand Canyon was simply spectacular!

The Grand Canyon

Our drive there started straight after school finished for the Summer holidays.  We got the three younger kids from elementary school then drove around to the middle school to pick up Levi just as a huge thunderstorm commenced.  We then drove for the next hour, very slowly, through a wild storm and flash flooding and wondered if we should hold off our trip until the next day.  But soon the skies cleared as we drove up into the mountains past all the big ski resorts, Vail, Aspen etc where there was still snow but the ski lifts were abandoned for the season.  Then the road winds down and curves with the fast flowing river.  Colorado is simply stunning.

Once we hit the Utah border right on sunset the landscape changed dramatically. We followed the Colorado River through the canyons and gullies.  It was arid for the most part with incredible sandstone sculptures that have been shaped from wind and rain over time.  Some of the mountains and rocks look like fabric has been drapped over them because of the soft, gathered curves.  Other parts of Utah were lush and green with grazing cattle and cultivated land.

UtahUtah Stop

The following day we stopped for lunch at The Three Bears Cottage Creamery in Kanab, Utah.  It was a friendly spot to get some great sandwiches to fuel us and then we got a massive ice-cream sundae to share for dessert called The Big Bad Wolf.  Well it was worth every cent to see the kids faces!

Arizona into Utah

As we hit the Arizona border we noticed the landscape change again.  The ground was thick with low lying shrubs which reminded me of coastal areas.  As we started to ascend into the National Park the landscape turned into forest.  Thick forest and large, green meadows.  We drove past a lone bison standing out in the middle of one of the meadows having a drink from a stream.  Several mule deers pranced across the road in front of us and bounded into the Aspen trees.  It was stunning and I half expected the birds to break into song like in a Disney movie.

Driving into The Grand Canyon National ParkA lone bison

As we were coming from Colorado we decided to camp at the North Rim and in hindsight I realise that all the underwhelming experiences I had been told about were from people visiting the South Rim – which is so much more popular.  Our experience at the North Rim was amazing.  Firstly, the campsite was right on the rim.  I would not go here with toddlers who like to wander!  I could not believe the location – simply amazing.  We were camped in a forest of Ponderosa Pines and the first thing that struck us was how beautiful the smell of the forest was.  The campsites were well spaced and so peaceful.

The Grand CanyonThe Grand Canyon

We set up our tent and went for a hike only to discover the canyon was less than 100 meters from our tent!  We thought we would have had to hike a fair way to get the canyon but it was all right there and it was breathtaking.  We hiked for a couple of hours around the rim. We grabbed some drinks from the camp store and found a spot on the rim to watch the sun go down.

The Grand CanyonToasting Marshmallows

The next day we got up early and took a mule ride along the rim which was so much fun.  It was our first encounter with a mule and we loved them.  Kids had to be 10 years and older in order to ride down into the canyon so we were restricted to just riding around the top of the North rim but it was a brilliant outlook.

Mule RidingHappy MuleMuleMuleThe Mule Riding LeaderMule RideMule RidingMule Riding

The kids spent the rest of the day completing the Junior Ranger activities, attending a talk about the Californian Condor and then being sworn in as Junior Ranges.  They loved it! Joel took the cover off the tent so we could have an afternoon rest looking up into the pines.  We could hear the kids chattering away outside at the picnic table, the breeze blowing through the trees, a woodpecker pecking away and see the Kaibab squirrels scuttling up the trees.  Gorgeous.  Later that afternoon we drove around to Bright Angel Point for the most spectacular outlook I have ever seen.  There was nobody there when we arrived and we settled in at a picnic table with an incredible view.  I had cooked some spicy beans before we left and we made bean burritos and warmed them on the portable stove on the griddle plate.  Such a simple, delicious dinner with views galore.  We packed up and went and sat on the rocks to watch the most glorious sunset.  One of the rangers had told us about the place and said it is where you see the best sunset in all of the United States and I think he was right.  Even the 40 minute drive to the point was breathtaking.

Bright Angel Point
Bright Angel Point

We followed the Colorado River for most of the drive back home. We stopped again at Kanab for lunch and Joel insisted on stopping in at an op shop where the kids got some notepaper and they wrote about their highlights of the trip, wrote poems and drew pictures in the car.  I found a great book on bread making and Joel got his usual stash of vinyl records to add to his collection.  It was pretty hot weather driving home and the river looked so tempting.  We had heard though that it is so cold that it is advisable not to swim in but after many hours of driving the temptation got too much and we pulled over to just wade our feet in.  It was cold but it was just what we needed to keep us going on the long drive back home. Kids eventualy fell asleep and we just finished listening the the final chapter of the audio book The Adventure of Tom Sawyer as we pulled into our street late last night.

River WadingRiver

America has so much breathtaking landscape. We loved our little road trip and loved our time in the Grand Canyon.  It was so peaceful and beautiful and exceeded all our expectations.  Stunning landscape, mule rides, massive ice-cream sundaes, sundowners overlooking the canyon and lots of happy family memories. But the sight of the Rocky Mountains was the most exciting as we knew we were almost home!

The Rocky Mountains

Posted in Camping, Colorado | 8 Comments